GEELONG has kept its finals hopes alive, storming home in the second half to defeat Gold Coast by 20 points in Mackay on Friday night.
After trailing by six points at half-time, the Cats kicked four unanswered goals following the main break to run out convincing 5.8 (38) to 2.6 (18) winners.
CATS WITH FINALS IN FRAME Full match coverage and stats
It was their second straight victory after accounting for Richmond last weekend and moves them to equal third in Conference A with three rounds remaining.
Nina Morrison was sensational, putting together four great quarters and driving the Cats midfield with 23 disposals and eight tackles in the hot, humid and slippery conditions.
Olivia Purcell (21 touches) was also excellent, while Richelle Cranston (18) was lively and kicked a goal on the stroke of three-quarter time that took the air out of the Suns' sails.
Geelong led by five points at quarter-time, despite conceding 13 inside 50s to seven, and things looked grim for the visitors when Gold Coast kicked the only two goals of the second quarter through Jacqui Yorston and Jamie Stanton.
Just when you thought the oppressive conditions would suit the Suns as the match wore on, Geelong had other ideas.
Using their superior running power and a willingness to move the ball aggressively, the Cats got on top in the third term, with tall forwards Phoebe McWilliams and Georgia Clarke kicking goals prior to Cranston.
Gold Coast looked tired and bereft of ideas, failing to score a point in the fourth quarter.
The result leaves the Suns clinging to an outside hope of finishing in the top three with their one win and one draw from five rounds.
Kalinda Howarth was sensational in the first half, before quietening to finish with 18 disposals, while Stanton (20) continued her All-Australian calibre season.
Right on the stroke of three-quarter time, Richelle Cranston drove the footballing equivalent of a stake through Gold Coast's heart. With the Suns trailing by just six points and still looking in the contest, the Cats forced a turnover in their forward 50, and as the siren sounded to send the teams to the final break, Cranston threw the ball on to her right foot and watched the snap bounce through. Gold Coast never recovered.
Young talent time
It's hard to believe Cat Nina Morrison and Sun Kalinda Howarth are just 19 and 20 respectively. Morrison was the best player afield with her contested ball-winning prowess and composed decision-making in-tight. Howarth is sky-rocketing towards the most exciting player in the competition. A half-volley and snap was just inches away from a miraculous goal, while her pass to Jamie Stanton off the outside of her right boot was sublime. The AFLW is in good hands with this pair of talented tyros.
Geelong's dare and ability to spread was the difference, but in a match played in high heat (28 degrees) and humidity (80 percent), it was stark the influence its three tall forwards had. Phoebe McWilliams kicked two goals, including one from a contested mark, while Georgia Clarke added one in the crucial third term. Kate Darby did not hit the scoreboard, but was always dangerous and grabbed a couple of marks in her eight disposals.
More than a decade ago, Geelong ruck Aasta O'Connor and Gold Coast defender Jade Pregelj were a lethal ruck-midfield combination, tearing up the Brisbane Women's League for Logan. On Friday night it was Pregelj who got the bragging rights during a battle within the battle. O'Connor lined up for goal from 50m late in the third quarter, ready to uncork a trademark bomb, only for Pregelj to smother the kick and deny her good friend a chance to score.
"That second half Geelong were strong around the footy and smart enough to get on the outside. I don't think we were smart in the way we moved it. Three more wins in the next three weeks … and we're still in the game. Not all is lost." – Gold Coast coach David Lake.
"Our midfield did a sensational job in the third quarter to really wrestle back the ascendency. They really led from the front there. A performance like this, where we had our backs against the wall interstate and fought back into the game, will give us a lot of belief going forward." – Geelong coach Paul Hood.
The Suns now have a nine-day break but the longest trip in the competition when they play fellow newcomers West Coast next Sunday at Mineral Resources Park at 2.10pm AWST. The Cats have another Friday night match next week, hosting North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium at 7.10pm AEDT.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
GOLD COAST 0.3 2.4 2.6 2.6 (18)
GEELONG 1.2 1.4 4.6 5.8 (38)
Gold Coast: Yorston, Stanton
Geelong: McWilliams 2, Clarke, Cranston, Teague
Gold Coast: Howarth, Stanton, Pregelj, Yorston, Perry
Geelong: Morrison, Purcell, Cranston, M.McDonald, Crockett-Grills
Gold Coast: Nil
Crowd: 2788 at Great Barrier Reef Arena (Mackay)